This group has developed a community based program to stop illegal logging.  Please help us to support them.


FROM: Environmental Legal Assistance Centre

September 13, 2000

Recent reports by our organized communities about indiscriminate logging activities in Southern Palawan office is disturbing, to say the least. These incidents occur despite the institution of commercial logging moratorium on the whole of Palawan since 1992.

We can understand the frustration of our partner communities in seeking help from government offices and law enforcement agencies because some personnel of these very same agencies have contributed to these illegal deeds, either through omission or commission. There have been a lot of cases whereby our communities have made the arrests themselves. I think there could have been much more if only our partner communities had the means to organize direct community action.

The present financial predicament we are into have made us scour for possible funding to assist our partner communities organize direct community action to prevent illegal logging activities from happening, thereby attaining swift environmental justice, as we in ELAC call it.

Very truly yours,

Assistant Executive Director
Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc.



1. Proponent’s Contact Person


Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda
Assistant Executive Director
Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc.
No. 11 H. Mendoza St., Puerto Princesa City, Palawan 5300
(048) 433-4076, (048) 433-5183
Telefax: (048) 433-5183


2. Program Proponent’s Background


Volunteer lawyers formed ELAC in 1990 as an effort to mobilize human rights lawyers under the Protestant Lawyers League of the Philippines, Inc. (PLLP) for legal advocacy on behalf of communities affected by environmental problems. Since then, ELAC has evolved into one of the leading regionally based public interest lawyers group. From an initial base in Palawan and Cebu, ELAC has expanded its area of coverage to include the provinces of Leyte, Samar, and Bohol, servicing both urban communities and outlying rural areas.


At present, ELAC is running two community-based coastal resource management programs. The first works with a coastal migrant community in Honda Bay, following the northern shoreline of Puerto Princesa City. The second focuses on the ancestral domain of the indigenous Tagbanua peoples of Coron.


One notable result of the paralegal training conducted by ELAC in its organized communities has been the increased confidence among participants, which in turn has led to positive independent action on a community level, resulting in the arrest of illegal loggers and fishers.


The Scientific Advisory Team (SAT) ELAC initiated in Palawan is being duplicated in the Visayas. The SAT gives independent opinion on environment impact assessments of environmentally critical projects. ELAC has sanctioned case studies that facilitate planning processes in the communities. These studies are used in the formulation of resource management plans (RMP). They include position papers on the acceptability of tourism development, rapid marine assessments, and socio-economic surveys.


Deforestation proceeds in Palawan unabated despite the moratorium on commercial logging since 1992. Wanton slash and burn farming, land conversion and illicit logging is taking its toll on the livelihood of indigenous cultural communities which depend on what their forests have to offer. Faced with these problems exacerbated by weak enforcement of forestry laws in these areas, the tribal villagers have taken it upon themselves to stop the scourge that is deforestation—swift environmental justice, as ELAC calls the process.


In October 1998, for example, there were two successive arrests made by Pala’wan tribes in Campung Ulay and Punta Baja, Rizal town netting at least 1,300 board feet of kamagong (Diospyros Philippensis) and a truckload of assorted round timber. In 1999, the Calamianes Tagbanua of Malawig, Coron town made successive confiscation of illegally cut woods in the hills of Decabobo. The tribe even attempted to employ the tribal penalty afforded to them under Republic Act 8371 (The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act) if not for the intervention of the town’s Vice Mayor. This year, the Pala’wan tribes of Candawaga, Rizal and Tagusao, Quezon confiscated chainsaws, various species of fresh cut premium hardwood and other logging paraphernalia. Elsewhere in Palawan, direct community action or "citizens’ arrest" in legal parlance have more and more been resorted into by communities who have had the realization that government agencies can only do so much in terms seeing to it that environmental laws are properly enforced especially in far-flung localities. Citizens’ arrest is perfectly legal under Rule 113 of the Revised Rules of Court of the Philippines.


Clearly, community initiatives like these must be intensified if the remaining forest cover is to be saved. Through the Environmental Legal Fund, the Environmental Legal Assistance Center will organize four (4) community direct actions in Rizal and Quezon towns. Below are the sets of activities for every direct action:

  1. Information Gathering. ELAC commences a community action initiative by deploying a Paralegal to an area where a case of illegal logging occurred or is occurring. While in the area, the Paralegal establishes a network of informants that will give ELAC an amount of information sufficient enough to launch a direct community action.
  2. Core Team Organizing. While in the area, the Paralegal also organizes a core of community members, which would participate in the actual implementation of the community direct action.
  3. Processing of Information Gathered. The legal team of ELAC will then process the information gathered at the community level. It is in this stage that the case-specific implementation plan will be laid out to ensure that proper legal procedures will be observed during the actual direct action.
  4. Re-echoing of Implementation Plan. Plans arrived at during consultation with legal staff will be re-echoed to the organized core of participants of the direct community action.
  5. Actual Direct Community Action. In this stage, the plans laid out from the start of the initiative will be implemented. Persons committing or assisting illegal logging activities will be arrested. Paraphernalia used for committing logging activities will be seized and confiscated. The seized and confiscated items will be then be turned over to the nearest village leaders, local officials or mandated government agencies for custody, while ELAC prepares the necessary legal course of action.
  6. ELAC’s Legal Action. After a community direct action has been effected and all documentary evidences have been gathered, ELAC takes over the case for litigation.


The goal of the community-direct action is to confiscate illegally cut logs and the tools and conveyances used in environmental violations. ELAC believes that the seizure of these items can win half the battle against environmental destruction as it the best assurance of preventing their further use and eventually diminishing the number of incidents of destructive acts.



Unarguably, putting a stop to illegal logging activities cannot be achieved overnight. By organizing a cadre of villagers who are able to implement environmental laws and affect arrest if the same are violated, the necessary building block for a successful, long term preservation of the remaining forest cover has been put into place. After the targeted number of direct community actions have been implemented, ELAC is hopeful that the same will produce a "deterrent effect" to potentially destructive activities taking place in the communities. ELAC also hopes to disseminate replicable experiences of direct community action through a case study.

Amount Requested to the Rainforest Information Centre: 1,000 US Dollars

Below is the breakdown of program expenses:

Budget Item


Cost in Ph Pesos*

Ocular visit to areas targeted

P2,500/visit x 4 areas


Planning with community members

P2,000/meeting x 4 meetings


Actual direct community action

P3,000/DCA x 4 DCA’s


Trucking and hauling of seized and confiscated items

P3,000/trip x 4 trips





*the budget is set based on the PhP42:1 Dollar exchange rate


For its part, ELAC commits the services of its Lawyers and Paralegals and other staff whose skills will be needed to make the initiatives successful. ELAC also will shoulder the cost of filing and costs of subsequent litigation.